1902 Encyclopedia > James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose
Scottish nobleman and soldier

JAMES GRAHAM, MARQUIS OF MONTROSE (1612-1650), born in 1612, became the fifth earl of Montrose by his father's death in 1626. He was educated at St Andrews; and in 1629, at the early age of seventeen, he married Magdalene Carnegie, daughter of the earl of Southesk. In 1636, on his way home from a prolonged visit to the Continent, he sought an introduction to Charles I., but, as it is said,, was frustrated in his hope of obtaining the king's favour by an intrigue of the marquis of Hamilton. Not long after the outbreak of the Scottish troubles in 1637 he joined the party of resistance, and was for some time its most energetic champion. He had nothing puritanical in his nature, but he shared in the ill feeling aroused in the Scottish nobility by the political authority given by-Charles to the bishops, and in the general indignation at the king's ill-judged scheme of imposing upon Scotland a liturgy which had been drawn up at the instigation of the; English court, and which had been corrected in England by that Archbishop Laud who now became known in Scotland under the nickname of "the pope of Canterbury."' Montrose's chivalrous enthusiasm eminently qualified him to-be the champion of a national cause, and the resistance of Scotland was quite as much national as it was religious. He signed the Covenant, and became one of the foremost Covenanters. The part assigned to him was the suppression of the opposition to the popular cause which arose around Aberdeen and in the country of the Gordons. Three times, in July 1638, and in March and June 1639, Montrose entered Aberdeen, where he thoroughly succeeded in effecting his object, on the second occasion carrying off the head of the Gordons, the marquis of Huntly, as a prisoner to Edinburgh.

In July 1639, after the signature of the treaty of Berwick, Montrose was one of the Covenanting leaders who visited Charles upon the borders. This change of policy on his part is frequently ascribed to the fascination of the king's conversation. In reality it arose from the nature of his own convictions. He wished to get rid of the bishops without making presbyters masters of the state. His was essentially a layman's view of the situa-tion. Taking no account of the real forces of the time, he aimed at an ideal form of society in which the clergy should confine themselves to their spiritual duties, and in which the king, after being enlightened by open communi-cation with the Scottish nation, should maintain law and order without respect of persons. In the Scottish parliament which met in September, Montrose attempted to carry out this policy, and found himself in opposition to Argyll, who had placed himself at the head of the Presbyterian and national party, which, by an alteration of the rules that had hitherto regulated the selection of the Lords of the Articles, gave supremacy in parliament to the representa-tives of the middle classes. Montrose, on the other hand, wished to bring the king's authority to bear upon parlia-ment to defeat this object, and offered him the support of a great number of the nobles, who were by this time as much opposed to the predominance of the Presbyterian clergy acting upon the middle classes as they had before been opposed to the predominance of the bishops. He failed, because Charles could not even then consent to -abandon the bishops, and because no Scottish party of any weight could be formed unless Presbyterianism were estab-lished ecclesiastically.

Rather than give way, Charles prepared in 1640 to in-vade Scotland. As usual, he prepared difficulties for those who wished to support him. Montrose was of necessity driven to play something of a double part. In August 1640 he signed the Bond of Cumbernauld as a protest against the particular and direct practising of a few—in other words, against the ambition of Argyll. But he took his place amongst the defenders of his country, and in the same month he was the first to wade across the Tweed at the head of the invaders of England. After the invasion had been crowned with success, Montrose still continued to cherish his now hopeless policy. On 27th May 1641 he was summoned before the Committee of Estates charged with intrigues against Argyll, and on 11th June he was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. When Charles visited Scotland to give his formal assent to the abolition of Episcopacy, Montrose communicated to him his belief that Hamilton was a traitor. It has indeed been alleged, on Clarendon's authority, that ho proposed to murder Hamilton and Argyll; but this is in all probability only one of Claren-don's many blunders. His letters to Charles, however, must be taken in connexion with this so-called incident. During the progress of the investigation of this plot, Mon-trose remained in custody, and upon the king's return to England he shared in the amnesty which was tacitlyaccorded to all Charles's partisans.

For a time Montrose retired, not voluntarily, from public life. After the Civil War in England began he constantly pressed Charles to allow him to make a diversion on Scot-land. At last in 1644, when the Scottish army entered England to take part against the king, Montrose, now created a marquis, was allowed to try what he could do. He set out to invade Scotland with about 1000 men. But his followers deserted, and his condition appeared hopeless. Genius, however, inspired him with courage. Disguised as a groom, he, with only two gentlemen, started on 18th August to make his way to the Highlands. No enterprise might seem rasher. Highlanders had never before been known to combine together, but Montrose knew that most of the clans detested Argyll, not because they were royalist but because Argyll, as the head of the Campbells, was the chief of an aggressive and unscrupulous tribe. Montrose did not miscalculate his chances. The clans rallied to his summons. About 2000 Irish had crossed the sea to assist him. He won battle after battle. He defeated the Cove-nanters at Tippermuir on 1st September, and at the Bridge of Dee on 12th September. Rapidity of movement was the distinguishing feature of his generalship. He crossed the mountains deep with a winter's snow into the country of Argyll, burning and destroying as he rested for a time from more active operations. On 2d February 1645 he crushed the Campbells at Inverlochy, whilst the head of the house, who was no warrior, looked on at the disaster from a boat. The Scottish parliament declared Montrose to have forfeited his life and estate as a traitor, but it could not reach him to execute the sentence. On 19th February he captured Elgin, through March he was ravaging Aber-deenshire and Kincardineshire, on 3d April he stormed Dundee, then on 9th May came the victory of Auldearn, on 2d July the victory of Alford, and on 15th August the great victory of Kilsyth. Never till after this battle had Montrose ventured far from the Highland hills. The High-landers had the habit of running home after a victory to secure their booty. Now, however, Montrose found himself apparently master of Scotland. In the name of the king, who now appointed him lord-lieutenant and captain-general of Scotland, he summoned a parliament to meet at Glasgow on 20th October, in which he no doubt hoped to reconcile loyal obedience to the king with the establishment of a non-political Presbyterian clergy. That parliament never met. In England Charles was in evil case. He had been defeated at Naseby on 14th June, and Montrose must come to his help if there was to be still a king to proclaim. He never had a chance of knowing what Montrose could do against the " new model" army. David Leslie, the best of the Scottish generals, was despatched against Montrose to anticipate the invasion. On 12th September he came upon Montrose, deserted by his Highlanders and guarded only by a little group of followers, at Philiphaugh. He won an easy victory. Montrose cut his way through to the Highlands ; but he failed to reorganize an army. On 3d September 1646 he embarked for Norway.

Montrose was to appear once more on the stage of Scottish history. In June 1649 he was restored by the exiled Charles II. to his nominal lieutenant-governorship of Scotland. In March 1650 he landed in the Orkneys to take the command of a small force which he had sent on before him. Crossing to the mainland, he tried to raise the clans, but the clans would not rise, and on 27th April he was surprised and captured at Corbiesdale in Ross-shire. On 18th May he entered Edinburgh as a prisoner. On the 20th he was sentenced to death by the parliament, and he was hanged on the 21st, with Wishart's laudatory biography
of him put round his neck. To the last he protested that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject. " The Covenant which I took," he said, "I own it and adhere to it. Bishops, I care not for them; I never intended to advance their interest." Something, at least, of Montrose's dream, so impossible to realize at that time, has been realized in Scotland. Scotland has remained ecclesiastically Presbyterian. The political legality which Montrose wished to uphold against factions by means of the king has been upheld by means of the political ripeness of the Scottish nation itself. (S. R. G.)

The above article was written by: S. R. Gardiner, Professor of Modern History, King's College, London.

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